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13 Best Beaches on Big Island That You Shouldn’t Miss

Olivia Perez

If you’re visiting Hawaii, you can’t miss these incredible beaches on Big Island!

With more than 260 miles of stunning coastline, encircled by warm, crystal-blue water all year round, it is virtually impossible to choose the best beaches on Big Island! 

Decorated by nature with fine snow-white, pitch-black lava, and green-sand beaches, many fringed with tall palm trees and lush forests, while others are sandwiched between dramatic cliffs with sheltered coves or in remote lunar-like landscapes, each are spectacular in their own unique way!

Most of the beaches on Big Island offer a wide range of water activities, making them popular for snorkeling on reefs teeming with life, surfing, body boarding, swimming, or just lazing in the sun.

Whatever you’re looking for the beaches on Big Island will have you spoilt for choice.

Best Beaches on Big Island That You Shouldn’t Miss

Below, we list some of the best beaches on Big Island you should not miss. After all, hitting the beach is by far one of the best things to do on Big Island!

Big Island Beaches on the North Coast

Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach is one of the best beaches on Big Island

Starting off in the northwest section of the island, this beautiful, soft, white sandy beach with clear turquoise water, is one of the most popular beaches on Big Island for families and locals alike.

In fact, Hapuna Beach State Park is one of the top beaches in the US!

Water can be super calm, ideal for swimming and small children, and perfect for body surfers when the surf picks up, although surfing can be dangerous during winter months.

The fairly wide beach, allows plenty of space for lazing in the sun, beach games, and taking long strolls, without feeling crowded.

If you’re feeling a little energetic, a short 2 mile round coastal hike is waiting for you on the north end of the beach.

Amenities include toilets, showers, and washrooms, picnic areas with grills and loads of shade, huge close-by parking with wheelchair access to the beach, and lifeguard services. Parking costs $10 per vehicle and $3 per person.

As with all west-facing beaches on this island, sunsets from here are simply stunning.

Mauna Kea Beach (Kaunanoa Beach)

Mauna Kea Beach is one of the best beaches on Big Island, Hawaii
Mauna Kea Beach is one of the best beaches on Big Island, Hawaii

Less than a mile to the north lies Mauna Kea Beach, which can only be described as a jewel of Hawaii. 

Half a mile of soft, white sandy beach with shallow reefs on both sides in crystal clear water, and fringed with palm trees to provide cool shade – picture postcard stuff! 

An ideal family beach, excellent for sunbathing, safe swimming, and stunning snorkeling on the coral reefs.

Bathrooms and showers are provided and a free car park is a quarter of a mile away. If you haven’t packed any snacks or drinks, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel restaurant, situated almost on the beach, will take care of that. 

After dark, the hotel switches on flood lights on the water, attracting manta rays, which you can view from the lookout point, aptly named Manta Ray Point. An unforgettable experience!

Spencer Beach

Spencer Beach is one of the best beaches on Big Island, Hawaii

A little further north lies Spencer Beach, one of the smallest, most secluded, and beautiful beaches on Big Island. 

A shallow offshore reef provides shelter giving it a tranquil, almost lagoon-like feel, making this white sandy beach perfect for families with small children, and great for snorkelers too. 

Large trees, virtually on the water’s edge, provide plenty of shade, making it the perfect spot for a picnic. 

Showers, toilets, and picnic tables are provided as well as a wheelchair-friendly path from the no-fee parking area providing access to the beach.

The Pu’ukohola Heiau historic site is a stone’s throw from the car park, where you go on a short hike and enjoy the splendid scenery of the Kohala coastline, and visit the ancient temple ruins and museum to learn about the rich history of Hawaii. This is a sacred place for all Hawaiians.

A great place which offers a rich mix of culture, history, breathtaking scenery and relaxation for the whole family.

Waialea Bay Beach

Waialea Bay Beach is one of the best beaches on Big Island

A little south of Hapuna, is the gorgeous Waialea Beach, with all the basic amenities you need.

The right side of the bay offers good body surfing, while the sheltered left side is perfect for gentle swimming and snorkeling. Still, keep in mind no lifeguards are on duty.

The offshore reef is teeming with tropical fish and if you’re lucky, you may see some turtles too. If you’re visiting during the winter months, you might even see a humpback whale outside the bay.

Waialea Beach offers a mix of white sand and rocky outcrops, sun and shade, being somewhat tranquil but a little rugged too.

It has shower facilities, toilets, and plenty of parking spaces close by, which cost non-islanders $10 per car and $5 per person. This entry fee also gets you onto Hapuna Beach situated almost next door.

Anaeho’omalu Beach (Great Beach for Kids)

Anaeho’omalu Beach is one of the best beaches on Big Island

Staying on the west side but more north is another popular family-friendly beach on Big Island that offers a wide range of activities to keep everyone happy the whole day.

A gentle-sloping white-sand beach with shallow waters is perfect for small children, while the right side offers good snorkeling with a wide range of reef fish and turtles.  

Great place to swim, sunbathe, kayak, and paddleboard. Tall swaying palm trees offer relief from the sun, while the ancient fish ponds behind the beach, make for a most scenic setting for a picnic. Sunset photographs from here are too stunning for words.

A short hike on the King’s Trail to the south will take you along small inlets and tidal pools, where green turtles often hang out. 

For the culture vultures, the ancient Waikoloa Petroglyphs carved centuries ago into volcanic rocks, are less than a mile away.

Showers and toilets are available with free parking a mere two-minute walk away. A most wonderful spot to spend the day!

Big Island Beaches on the East Coast

Richardson Beach Park

Richardson Beach Park is one of the best beaches on Big Island

On the opposite side of the island, and rated as one of the best family beaches in Hilo, Richardson Beach Park, is a most unusual beach in more ways than one.

Firstly, the sand is a mix of black lava and olivine crystals, giving it an unusual greenish-black tinge. The sea is also fed by a cold freshwater spring giving the water a weird blur as it mixes with the warm ocean.

Also, the tide pools and calm waters make it a perfect place to soak up the summer vibes with your children.

A good mix of sand and rock formations with charming tidal pools at low tide makes it a popular spot for kids to play in the water, and the abundant marine life, including turtles, makes it an excellent snorkeling spot.

The black sand gets really hot during the day and the rough lava rocks make water shoes a necessity.

Restrooms, showers, and picnic areas are available with free parking close by.

Carlsmith Beach Park

Carlsmith Beach Park is one of the best beaches on Big Island

Less than a mile east of Richardson, is another gem, arguably one of the best family and snorkeling beaches in Hilo.  

A series of picturesque lagoons with many access points offer safe swimming and an opportunity to snorkel with turtles. 

Swimming shoes are advisable as one has to walk over rocks to enter the water. Loads of shaded grassy areas make it a perfect place for a family to spend the entire day. 

Lifeguards, restrooms, and outdoor showers are provided with ample close-by parking. A short walk through a lush forest teeming with birdlife will get you to the lagoons. It can get a little crowded on weekends, so it’s best to get there early.

Big Island Beaches on the West Coast

Kua Bay Beach

Kua Bay Beach is one of the best beaches on Big Island
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Kua Bay Beach, also known as Manini’owali Beach, on the west coast easily rates among the finest white-sand beaches in Kona, with calm, crystal clear water providing excellent snorkeling during the calm summer months, while solid waves create perfect surfing conditions in the winter months.

There is plenty of picnic space in Maniniowali Beach although the shade is somewhat limited (so you might want to bring a beach umbrella).

Unless there’s a food truck around, there is nowhere to buy food or drinks, so bring your own.

On top of that, this beach just north of Kailua Kona is lifeguard protected and showers and bathrooms are present at the car park barely a hundred yards away. 

It can get a little crowded during the season, so it’s better to go early or on weekdays.

Kamakahonu Beach (King Kam Beach)

Kamakahonu Beach is one of the best beaches on Big Island

Situated in the center of downtown Kona, this quaint tiny beach is probably the safest and calmest sandy spot found anywhere on the island, making it the perfect beach for families.

The locals nicknamed it “Children’s Beach”. It’s most popular for families with small children and novice snorkelers, sunbathers, kayakers, and fishermen.

All public amenities such as toilets, showers, and barbeque areas are available, with ample shaded picnic spots along the shoreline. 

Being in the heart of the city, shopping and tons of food options are a stone’s throw away. For a little culture, visit the Kamakahonu Historical Site.

Kahalu’u Beach

Kahalu’u Beach is one of the best beaches on Big Island
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A quick drive to the south will bring you to possibly the best snorkeling beach in Kona – Kahaluu Beach Park.

Situated in a sheltered bay, a vast living coral reef hosts myriads of beautiful reef fish, octopus, and turtles plus tons of other marine creatures, making you think you’re snorkeling in an aquarium.

Most of the snorkeling is done on the left side of the beach, while the right side provides some awesome surfing too.

The black sand and lava rock formations are hard on the feet so water shoes are a must. Great spot for families to unwind, sunbathe, swim and play.

Bathrooms, showers, and loads of eateries are close by and parking is free. It does get crowded, so it’s best to get there early.

All in all, Kahaluu is one of our favorite beaches for swimming.

Makalawena Beach

Makalawena Beach is one of the best beaches on Big Island

If you’re looking for one of the most picturesque and unspoiled beaches on Big Island, and have it all to yourself, head straight to Makalawena Beach in Kona Coast State Park.

But be warned; you’re going to have to work for it. You can either get there by a high-clearance 4×4 or hike for two miles over jagged black lava rocks…but the view of the white sand beach with its palm-fringed shoreline and impressive sand dunes overlooking the reefs in the crystal clear ocean in the background, will blow you away!

Not recommended for families with small children, but swimming and snorkeling is simply magic. No amenities provided, though.

Come well prepared and leave nothing but your footprints behind. If you’re hiking to the beach, park your car on the side of the highway between mile markers 88 and 89.

Big Island Beaches on the South Coast

Punalu’u Beach

Punalu'u Beach is one of the beautiful beaches on Big Island
Punalu’u Beach is one of the beautiful beaches on Big Island

Situated on the southern coastline, is Punalu’u Beach – possibly the most famous of all black sand beaches on Big Island.

This easily accessible palm-lined beach is great for swimming, snorkeling, and fishing. However, there can be strong currents and unpredictable waves, so watch out.

But what makes Punaluu Black Sand Beach a popular destination, is that it is one of the few places on earth where you can see green and extremely rare hawksbill turtles basking in the sun and feeding in the shallows.

The black sand and jagged lava rocks make water shoes a necessity. Showers, bathrooms, free parking, lifeguards, and ample picnic areas are provided.

Punalu’u is not only a truly unique place to visit in the US but also one of the best black sand beaches in Hawaii.

On top of that, Punaluu Black Sand Beach is located between Kona and Hilo, making for a perfect relaxing beach stop after exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Papakolea Beach

Papakolea Beach is one of the best beaches on Big Island

For another once-in-a-lifetime experience, you cannot go to Hawaii without visiting Papakolea Beach, one of only four green-sand beaches on the planet. Yes, green sand!

Getting there is a bit of a mission but certainly worth the effort to reach this remote beach.

From the car park, you’ll have to hike for three miles on a rough and dusty track, with no facilities in sight. So take everything you may need. Snacks, water, hats, and sunscreen.

Cut into the crater of an ancient volcano that erupted 50 000 years ago, the ocean has eroded a semi-precious mineral, called olivine, creating the only green-sand beach on Big Island. 

Once you reach the rim of the crater you’ll be met with a sight to behold! There’s still a steep climb down to the beach where you can cool of in the turquoise waters. Be mindful of the surf, which can get quite rough here.

One of the most unique of all Hawaiian beaches. Just go there!

Tips for Visiting Big Island Beaches

  • If you see any wildlife, keep your distance. It’s crucial for the animals to feel safe.
  • Don’t leave expensive stuff in your car
  • Check what facilities are available before heading out. It’s always good to know if you’ll be able to find a bathroom or not!
  • Help keep our reefs alive and use a reef-safe sunscreen![]
  • Use a hat, sunglasses, lip balm, and flip-flops. These items are essential for protecting yourself from sunburns and cutting your feet.
  • Wanna have a beach all for yourself? Then head over to one of the secluded beaches during weekdays! Don’t forget to bring plenty of water, snacks, and a trash bag.
  • Last but not least. Drinking alcohol and smoking is illegal on Hawaiian beaches in state parks.

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